The team behind successful farming business Westerton Farmers near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire have launched their second farm shop, this time with food and plastic waste in mind.
Opening its doors over the weekend Farm to Table, which is based a few miles down the road from the Cairnton Farm, has been in the works since late 2019.
With coronavirus restrictions now easing, it is now fully operational and the new premises will give the team’s original farm shop, the Spud Hut, a much-needed rest.
Having boomed in popularity during the pandemic of the past 12 months which has seen consumers’ behaviour changing as more people focused on shopping locally, Fiona Smith, one of the co-owners of family-run Westerton Farmers is ecstatic to finally see her year-long project take shape.
While the Spud Hut will remain at the farm premises at Cairnton, the new store, which is a renovated farm building, will feature a much bigger selection of locally sourced goods, and will showcase a wide range of vegetables, as well as boasting a host of refillery dispensers.
The idea of the concept is for customers to bring their own Tupperware or containers and fill them with the goods they want to buy. They will weigh their container, fill it with items including pasta, rice, oils etc. and weigh it again before payment.
Fiona Smith, co-owner of Westerton Farmers, the firm behind the Farm to Table, said: “We had over 100 households visit us over the weekend which was incredible. We have a five household limit in the shop at any one time and only had to ask a few people to wait outside which was good.
“It was a lovely constant stream of people coming to show their support and see what we had in the shop. It was lovely seeing all the hard work pay off.”
“We started planning in late 2019 and it got massively delayed with the craziness of 2020 and how busy the spud hut became. We are so grateful for the support our business has had from the community this past year and we will be keeping the Spud Hut open at Cairnton. We renovated an old building for it and like the Spud Hut, we used as much from around the farm as we could.
“We’ve used tattie boxes dating back to the 60s and chitting trays from the 70s and Hadden Joinery Company custom built our units and displays out of these old items. It’s been so rewarding seeing this old building come back to life. It’s first job on the farm was a house for our breeding pigs in the 80s.”
Open seven days a week from 10am to 6pm, Farm to Table is passionate about reducing both plastic and food waste.
Fiona says by shopping with containers, customers are more inclined to just purchase what they need, rather than buy too much which sometimes leads to food being thrown out.
She added: “We have always been very passionate about reducing waste and working as ‘greenly’ as we can. We have invested heavily in renewables over the last five years at the farm and looked at our practices and how we can do better. After the roaring success of the Spud Hut we decided inject our passion into our customer facing part of the business.
It’s been so rewarding seeing this old building come back to life. It’s first job on the farm was house for our breeding pigs in the 80s.”
Fiona Smith, owner of Farm to Table
“Local, delicious, fresh produce and ethically sourced is essentially what we are doing and we’re ensuring items which notoriously use single-use plastics such as pasta, rice, milk, freezer favourites and cereals, are available without the plastic.
“I think concept stores like Farm to Table take a bit of time to get into the habit of bringing your containers and shopping in a different way, but we know it can be done and really want to encourage this new routine.
“So many people have changed their shopping habits in the past year and I think now is a great time to continue to introduce changes. It allows people to buy what they need, reduce food waste and plastic waste, as well as supporting a family business.”
Not only is there a range of items to enjoy from the refillery station, there’s also produce including fish, chicken, frozen beef, pastries and more available to browse at the store ensuring customers can pick up plenty of ingredients to cook up a range of healthy meals at home.
“At Farm to Table we have our refillery which has pasta, rice, flour, dried fruits, cereals and nuts. We have a dedicated gluten-free section which has pasta, oats and flour. There is loose frozen veg, fruit, fish, pastries and chicken.
“Also frozen beef (Drumsleed Meats) and venison (Drumtochty Venison) both from just a few miles along the road. Our nut butter machine makes fresh peanut better at the touch of a button using only peanuts – no additives, palm oil or sugars. It’s delicious!
“We have oils and vinegars available for you to fill your own drizzlers, and Sacred Grounds coffee and loose teas. Our fridge has some cold drinks, glass bottled milk, oat milk and fresh juices from Kerr’s Family Dairy, cold pressed juices from the Artisan Grower, cultured butter from the Edinburgh Butter Company, sticky toffee pudding from Cove Honey Bees, fresh Salads from Gannets and in the summer we hope to have sandwiches, cheeses and pies.
With food miles in mind when purchasing goods, Fiona says it is important for the public to remember that the UK is based on seasonal growing and while they have produce all year round, some items may come from further afield to meet demand.
“Food miles have also been in the spotlight and we want to introduce people to food transparency – knowing exactly where their food comes from and how it’s produced,” said Fiona.
“We have dedicated a lot of space to our homegrown vegetables – we are expanding the patch this year to include a lot more, and have two polytunnels to allow us to extend our season and try some more exotic produce.
“We work closely with other suppliers to source what we can’t grow and have a great relationship with our local veg merchant Turriffs in Montrose. All our veg is plastic-free and unwashed which extends its shelf life. We will be offering pick-your-own vegetables this year to allow customers to take them from the farm to their table.
“We sell peppers which are from Spain at this time of year and think it is important for our customers to know their food’s journey. It is important customers are aware that there is certain produce we can’t provide from local growers at certain times of year – so it’s about making the best choice from what’s available.
“British veg season is about to kick off and we will aim to get most of our fresh produce from UK producers (mainly our homegrown veg). Avocado is a great example – this can come from Portugal or South America but Portuguese ones are a lot closer, fewer air miles and generally have better food controls.
“To showcase our produce more will also be running our pumpkin patch events from Farm to Table in the future and have more events in the pipeline this year.”